Widespread tsunami warnings after huge quake, tsunamis devastate Japan
11 March 2011
TOKYO (BNO NEWS) -- A series of enormous earthquakes struck off the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan on early Friday afternoon, seismologists said, generating huge tsunamis that devastated coastlines and has prompted tsunami warnings for dozens of countries.
The initial 8.9-magnitude earthquake at 2.46 p.m. local time (0546 GMT) was centered about 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of Sendai in Japan, on the nation's main island of Honshu. It struck about 24.4 kilometers (15.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The USGS estimated that approximately 2.1 million people would have felt severe shaking, which could result in heavy damage. Another 50 million could have felt strong to very strong shaking. It is one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history.
Numerous large aftershocks struck soon after, the largest being a 7.1 on the Richter scale. One of the aftershocks, which had a 6.8 magnitude, struck only 67 kilometers (42 miles) northeast of the capital of Tokyo.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) immediately issued a tsunami warning, and large tsunamis could be seen hitting northeastern coastlines and regions near Tokyo, submerging entire cities and villages. In Tokyo, where people fled from buildings, fires were seen burning and clouds of black smoke were rising above the city's skyline.
NHK Television reported that at least 40 people have been killed, but fears are that thousands may have died. Numbers buildings are reported to have collapsed. Meanwhile, a large tsunami is believed to be traveling across the Pacific Ocean, prompting tsunami alerts for dozens of countries.
CASUALTIES AND INCIDENTS -- JAPAN
According to Japanese media, at least 40 people have died and dozens more are missing. Miyagi police told the Kyodo news agency that a ship carrying more than 100 people was washed away by a tsunami, without providing more details.
INTERNATIONAL TSUNAMI WARNINGS/INFORMATION
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for Japan, Russia, the Marcus Island, Taiwan, Yap, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Belau, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna Islands, Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, Australia (1), Fiji, New Caledonia, Tonga, Mexico, Kermadec Islands, French Polynesia, New Zealand (2), Pitcairn, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Antarctica, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.
(1) = The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center itself has not issued a tsunami warning, saying there is no threat.
(2) = The New Zealand Tsunami Expert Panel has issued a tsunami marine warning only, saying there is a threat of strong and unusual currents with unusual wave activity possible at the beach. There is no land threat.
The Hong Kong Observatory said there was no threat to its region. "The earthquake has generated a tsunami which affects the Pacific. However, it is unlikely that Hong Kong and the neighboring coastal areas will be significantly affected," the Observatory said in a statement. "The rise in the local sea level is expected to be less than half a meter, which is much lower than the normal day-to-day tidal variation of about one meter."
U.S. AND CANADA TSUNAMI WARNINGS/WATCHES
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for the U.S. states of California and Oregon from Point Concepcion in California to the Oregon-Washington border. A tsunami warning is also in effect for the coastal areas of Alaska from Amchitka Pass to Attu.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami advisory for the coastal areas of California from the California-Mexico border to Point Concepcion, California. A tsunami advisory is also in effect for the coastal areas of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska from the Oregon-Washington border to Amchitka Pass, Alaska.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued a tsunami warning for Hawaii, Wake Island, the Northern Marianas, Guam, Midway Atol, Johnston Atol, Howland and Baker Islands, Palmyra Atol, Jarvis Island, and American Samoa.
"A tsunami has been generated that could cause damage along coastlines of all islands in the state of Hawaii," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Honolulu said in a bulletin. "Urgent action should be taken to protest lives and property." It said the first tsunamis can reach Hawaii by 3.07 a.m. local time.
The Provincial Emergency Program of British Columbia, Canada said it believed a "low level tsunami" could affect its coastlines. "[It] could impact marinas and other coastal infrastructure or create strong currents in harbors and isolated coastal areas. Local governments in these zones are advised to activate their emergency plans and to immediately evacuate marinas, beaches and other areas that are below the normal high tide mark," a statement said.